This group portrait shows the first Liberal cabinet in 1891. Pictured are (standing, from left) Richard Seddon (premier 1893–1906), A. J. Cadman, John McKenzie, J. G. Ward (premier 1906–12), William Pember Reeves, and (sitting, from left) Patrick Buckley and John Ballance (premier 1891–93). The Liberals, New Zealand’s first formally organised political party, remained in power for more than 20 years. The party's existence forced other groupings in Parliament to solidify into parties to gain the same organisational and campaigning advantages the Liberals enjoyed.
When the Liberals came to power in 1891, the party was a loose group of local committees which chose their own candidates and developed policies. Despite the setting up of a Dunedin-based National Liberal Association in 1891, local groups retained power in their area. In 1899 premier Richard Seddon organised the Liberal Labour Federation of New Zealand, into which existing Liberal groups were absorbed. Although he set up the Lib-Lab Federation, Seddon preferred to maintain his personal power and was known as 'King Dick' in part because of this. He intervened in candidate selection in electorates across the country, and allowed the party little influence over policy.
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